Mission Acevedo: Overcome All Obstacles

BEVERLY IRWIN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

You’ve probably seen Jorge Acevedo around campus, or at least felt his presence as he scoots past in his wheelchair.

Don’t be mistaken, this guy is not after your pity or your help, in fact he’s out to help the rest of us.
Acevedo, 32 next month, is a man on a mission. His mission may have changed over the years but that is only part of his message.

“Life changes,” he said, “but education is still the way to go. A lot of people think that just because you’re in a wheelchair you can’t do anything.”

Nothing could be further from the truth for Acevedo.

Life was just fine for this young man in 1999. Despite good grades in his administration of justice classes, he dropped out of GCC in the fall of that year, before completing his degree. He found a job in security with K-Mart and Jon’s Market and was making enough money to buy his parents and siblings a home in the Mt. Washington area of Los Angeles.

His dream was to join the Los Angeles Police Department. Acevedo had taken the entrance exam and was awaiting the results of a background check.

But late on the evening of Christmas Day 1999, as he neared his Mt. Washington home in his Lincoln Town Car, he was shot three times. As he tried to drive home he lost consciousness and crashed into a parked car. Acevedo believes the assailants wanted to steal the car but gave up when he drove away. Police believe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and blame gang members for the attack.

Two bullets ripped into his left leg while the third smashed the base of his skull behind his left ear. He was in a coma, and when he regained consciousness, this former Belmont High School football player had to relearn to walk and talk. Today he can walk with a walker. He uses a wheelchair for mobility, especially around campus. His speech is mildly impaired.

Last semester Acevedo started Delta Sigma Omicron, a campus club for disabled students. They began with 10 members, and just one semester later, they now have about 25.

“I need to educate people that life can change,” said Acevedo. “That doesn’t mean that life stops. You need to keep on going.”

Tina Andersen-Wahlberg, senior specialist at the High Tech Center on campus, has known Acevedo for about two years.

“He is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met,” Andersen-Wahlberg said. “He’s so courageous and open to adventure and trying new things.”

Andersen-Wahlberg recalls the spring of 2001 when Acevedo was a member of a disabled students field study trip to Baja California. ASB had given funds for a special wheelchair that could be used on the beach, in both the sand and in the water. “I can still see Jorge, sitting on the beach in the chair, flying a kite,” she recalls fondly.

He also went snorkeling. Lying on a foam mat pulled by instructors Lee Parks and Laura Matsumoto, Acevedo discovered the joys of Baja marine life.

“Jorge found a very large clam shell, and one of the instructors dove down and got it,” said Andersen-Wahlberg. The local museum curator had never seen one so big. The shell is now in the museum, with Acevedo’s name on it.

Now back at GCC, Acevedo is pursuing his degree in administration of justice and computing.

“I love computers,” he said. “I’m taking my time. When people go fast they don’t learn anything.”
Acevedo credits his administration of justice class teachers, Lt. Leif Nicolaisen (now Capt. Nicolaisen), and Lt. Gerald Carrigan of the Glendale Police Department for helping him stay focused on his police force dreams.

“So I may not get to be what I wanted,” he said, “but there are alternatives — giving back to the community. Just because I am in a wheelchair, I can still do plenty.”

Acevedo volunteers with Glendale Police Department C.O.P.P.S. (Community Police Partner Ship) program and next month will begin working at Hoover High School counseling at-risk students. He is planning to make a difference.

UPDATE:
The LAPD is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the shooting of Jorge Acevedo on December 25, 1999. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Northeast Division at
(213) 847-4261.